If it’s the world’s longest plastic-deck suspended footbridge you’re looking for, you’ve got to find your way to tiny River, KY, and to the Forest and Maxine Preston Memorial Pedestrian Bridge.
However, finding this attraction can be quite a challenge. There are virtually no street signs to indicate it’s presence. However, you’ll finally find a little gravel parking area for visiting the bridge at 6790 Tutor Key Road, River, KY. The entrance to the bridge is enclosed by a small steel fence which contains the historic plaque describing the bridge. Please note that the immediately adjoining home is private property and is clearly marked as such.
River, KY, is the sort of place, lying in the sort of area, that a plastic bridge can put on the map. The biggest attraction anywhere around River is the Butcher Hollow house where Loretta Lynn grew up. A nearby Ramada Inn can justifiably call itself “Eastern Kentucky’s Oasis.”
The brainchild of Issam Harik, a civil engineering professor at the University of Kentucky, this cable-suspension bridge runs 420 feet in its span of the Levisa Fork of the Big Sandy River. It replaced a structure of rusting cables and rotting boards that dated from the 1930’s and swayed in the wind, which locals on both banks used in favor of a 20-mile drive to visit relatives on the other side. The old bridge was so terrifying that one man had to blindfold his horse to get it across the span.
Harik, who also designed the world’s longest plastic-beam bridge, near Cave Run Lake, KY, managed to cajole and wheedle more than a half-million dollars of federal, state, and local money to fund the project. Some of the plastic fibers that went into the decking are stronger than steel.
Indeed, the bridge offered such novelty that it was a great attraction for the area in days gone by.
“People are coming from all over to see it,” as Patsy VanHoose, the postmaster of River, put it once: “We had some people the other night from New York. We’ve had some from Connecticut – everywhere.”
She’s got a point. When New Yorkers will drive ten hours to see a plastic bridge, you know it’s worth a visit.
Well, on this particular day of Subaru Outback exploration, we had the time, the gas and patience. We enjoyed our little search through this rural area. Crossing the bridge was exhilarating (.i.e. I panicked and froze for a little bit as the bridge began to bounce….buy heck, my wife got a good laugh from it!). But telling the tale of actually finding the bridge is actually more entertaining for us!